Illinois State Tops TU in Hawaii
Tulsa’s comeback bid in the third-place game of the Hawaiian Airlines Diamond Head Classic fell short as the Illinois State Redbirds held on for a 68-56 victory Sunday afternoon at the Stan Sheriff Center on the campus of the University of Hawai’i. Unlike 18 days earlier when the two teams met in Tulsa and the Hurricane had a 14-point comeback win over the Redbirds, it wasn’t meant to be in the rematch.
Tulsa fell to 6-6 on the season to conclude non-conference action, while Illinois State improved to 8-4.
Ice-cold shooting from the field was Tulsa’s nemesis in the loss. In the second half, however, the Hurricane used solid free throw shooting and improved defense to get within nine points.
Tulsa shot season-lows of 26.9-percent from the field and 19.2-percent from behind the arc, but connected on 82-percent of its free throws, knocking down 23-of-28 freebies for the game. Junior Etou scored a season-high 22 points, while knocking down 13-of-14 free throws, and also had a game-best eight rebounds for the Hurricane.
The Redbirds connected on 41-percent from the field, and had a 24-16 edge scoring in the paint and totaled 18 points off of Tulsa turnovers. Paris Lee led four Redbird players in double-digits with 18 points.
“We got off to a tremendously slow start,” said Tulsa Head Coach Frank Haith. “They were more aggressive, more physical and tougher than us. I was really disappointed how we started the game. We didn’t make shots, and when you miss shots you have to have toughness, and we didn’t have it on either end of the court.”
The Hurricane cut a 21-point second half deficit to nine points at 60-51 with 3:54 remaining in the game on Etou’s put-back layup. Most of Tulsa’s points during it’s come-from-behind bid came from the free throw line as the Hurricane scored 21 of its 30 points from the charity stripe to get to within nine points.
Illinois State jumped out to a 16-0 lead in the first seven minutes of the game. The Hurricane was 0-for-7 during that opening stretch, while the Redbirds connected on 7-of-13 field goals to take the 16-point lead. It took 6:44 into the game before Tulsa scored its first basket. Joseph Battle’s three-pointer at the 13:16 mark snapped Tulsa’s drought and made the score 16-3.
Illinois State expanded its lead to as many as 20 points in the first half, 30-10, at the 5:46 mark, but the Hurricane cut the Redbirds lead to 16 points at the intermission, 37-21. Twelve of Tulsa’s first-half points came off the bench and nine from three-point range.
In the first half, Tulsa shot just 31 percent from the field, 29-percent from three-point range, and made one of just two free throws. The Redbirds connected on 40-percent of its shots, with a 12-6 advantage in scoring in the paint and an 11-1 edge off of 13 Tulsa turnovers.
Etou had six first-half points for the Hurricane, while Lee had 12 points to lead Illinois State.
Tulsa returns home to begin American Athletic Conference play on Saturday as the UConn Huskies come to town on New Years Eve Day. Tipoff is scheduled for 1:00 p.m., Dec. 31, at the Donald W. Reynolds Center
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